If "disaffection," "dysfunction,"
"detachment" are the defining buzzbytes of the
lost/slacker/X-generation, You Am I's breathtaking debut
album Sound As Ever is a genetic fuck-up, a freak. Where
the '90s are about unplugging and tuning out (symbolised
by Kurt Cobain howling "Here we are now, entertain
us" and "A denial/A denial" on "Smells
Like Teen Spirit"), the essence of Sounds As Ever is
about connections, attachments, love and other bruises.
Underpinning many of frontman Tim Rogers'
songs is an affection and sentimentality rarely attempted,
and even more rarely achieved with such aplomb in rock &
roll. "Trainspottin'" - an emotion-shot nod to
a friend - typifies this. Rogers reminisces about the day
they met, asking affectionately: "How long can we talk
about Mick & Keef/ Bayou Country or Exile On Main Street?"
Scored to a tunnel-vision tempo and incessant guitar riff,
the song can be equally be appreciated for its rockin' revellry.
"Jaimme's Got A Gal," one of
the album's most immediate tracks, is possessed of a similar
sentiment. The ballad of an acquaintance who has left behind
his old ways for new love, its positivity, however, is counterpointed
by the darker urgency of lines like "Things I promised
not to do to you today/ I sure need to tonight." Even
on a track like the dark single "Adam's Ribs,"
where Rogers rails at how the fashion industry's perpetuation
of waif-ism leads to anorexia with lines like "I'm
dedicated follower of skin-tight/... As long as we throw
up, everything'll be fine," there's a life-affirming
zest that both subverts the intent and makes for an aural
Like Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, Rogers' stance
is not only embodied in the lyrics of tracks like "Trainspottin',"
"Adam's Ribs" and "Forever and Easy"
but in his cathartic delivery. There's an enthusiasm and
ragged passion in Rogers' voice, Andy Kent's bass and Mark
Tunaley's drums that cuts to the heart of each subject.
Sound As Ever rings with the kinetic dissonance
of its time (at times echoing producer Lee Ranaldo's ban
Sonic Youth), while marrying the Rolling Stones/Black Crowes
swagger that informs Rogers and that the band has never
quite achieved on disc before. In fact, at times, You Am
I seems to enjoy hanging out its references for all to see.
There are lyrical nods to Rolling Stones and Creedence in
"Trainspottin'" and the Kinks on "Adam's
Ribs," and "Forever and Easy" steals from
the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" while the
vocal mimics the Easybeats' Stevie Wright, circa "Evie."
If Sound As Ever is a sprawling gem, it
is by no means an immediate experience - its approximate
rush and the density of Ranaldo's production require some
persistence. But rarely is rock this spirited, this focused...
this fuckin' good. Love it hard.